There has been hustling and bustling in Heaven for days now—preparing for a huge party. You see, one of God’s best party girls was on her way.
And now she has arrived.
Vonette Zachary Bright went home December 23.
Tears are flowing.
Her children, grandchildren and extended family will miss her. Most have been able to come to say good-bye. Brad and Kathy have been with her consistently, along with their children Keller and Noel, who are home from college.
Sadly son Zach’s health kept him and Terry from coming, but his son, Christopher, came and had a long, sweet conversation with his grandmother a week ago.
Our staff around the world have followed along via Caring Bridge and Facebook and Cru.org–remembering and thanking and praying for our staff mother, our mentor, our model.
God gave me a sweet assignment—to gather photos of her life, her journey, her ministry to share with the rest of the staff, and the world. I have done it with tears and with joy, recalling countless times we shared together.
Many knew Vonette, but I was greatly privileged to walk closely with her for 50 years. I have learned much from her:
To be gracious
Vonette made everyone feel welcome. She loved to meet and greet, to host and visit. She was the quintessential extrovert. She hated to be by herself and loved to be with people.
I love people, and enjoy an in-depth conversation with people I enjoy, but I also love to be by myself. From her I learned to focus on the person I am with, even if it’s brief, even if I’m tired, even if I will probably never see them again. Her graciousness was beautiful to watch–and hopefully I have caught some of it.
To be faithful
There was honor and fruitfulness and gratitude in her God-given calling to lead this ministry with her husband—so being faithful was not too difficult. But long hours and long flights, deep needs and challenging situations, and sometimes the lack of appreciation all tested faithfulness. Then there was her husband, who had crazy ideas and out-of-this world faith.
She stood steadfast. She walked with Bill and in the Spirit, receiving daily the courage and the stick-to-itiveness to remain faithful.
To speak up
Vonette saw things. She paid attention to people and needs and concerns. When she saw something that needed to be addressed, a person who needed to be encouraged, a different way to solve a problem, she said so. She had a voice and she used it.
It was not uncommon to hear her say, “Bill Bright, you can’t do that.” He always listened because she had wisdom and insight, and often he did what she said.
Consistently, over many years, she spoke up for our staff women. She believed God intended to use women to make a significant impact for His Kingdom, and she always reminded us to equip and empower our women.
To get down on my knees
Vonette prayed. She called our staff, our friends, the whole world to bow before God and pray. She encouraged us to ask, and keep asking, to ask specifically and in faith and boldness.
And she prayed for the world, our country, our staff and the staff children, her family. She had ongoing, well-used prayer journals. And time after time she saw God answer those prayers.
To honor others
How she loved Bill Bright! I don’t believe I ever heard her speak ill of Bill, even when she disagreed with him. She was so proud of her very humble husband.
She also loved to lift up others, to give them opportunities to shine, to see them used by God. She would open doors for young and old, desiring for them to be and do all God had for them.
Her many kind words to and about Steve and me have been more than we deserved, but greatly appreciated.
To trust God
Oh yes, she trusted God. When she and Bill signed a contract, surrendering all they had, were and would be to God, she believed God would care for them and use them.
When Bill received a vision that became Campus Crusade for Christ, she became his partner in that huge faith step.
When they purchased the Arrowhead Springs resort for a headquarters and training center, with no money and a borrowed down payment, she stood with Bill in amazing confidence.
When Bill was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, she walked through those hard years, trusting God to take care of her beloved husband, and of her in her years to come without Bill.
And many more faith-stretching possibilities.
To have fun
Vonette was surely a spiritual woman, but also a woman who loved to have fun. I can’t begin to count the parties I attended at her home.
She often had dinner parties for special guests. Bill would host one table and I would assist him. After a few of Bill’s dry humor jokes and stories, our conversation always turned to the Lord and reaching the world for Jesus. At the other table, hosted by Vonette and Steve, the laughter never ceased.
Games were often included in her gatherings, and though some of us groaned at another game, she worked her magic and we all had a great time.
A few years ago, to enhance her time with her family and to entice more friends and staff to come visit, she got an electric fireplace and a big flat screen TV. Her purpose: to have football-watching parties. Twice I watched my Longhorns play at Vonette’s.
So it’s only appropriate that she would arrive in heaven to a huge celebration, a magnificent welcome party. And I know she entered in joyfully, seeking out every loved one, every long unseen friend with a smile and a hug.
A lament, with joy
This is a lament. I said good-bye to her with great sorrow. She has been such an encouragement and teacher and model and friend to me. I will miss her greatly. And will perhaps feel a greater weight of her mantle. I know I will want to talk with her many times, but she won’t be available.
Yet I have joy. I have received so much from Vonette. She has loved me, taught me, opened doors for me, laughed with me, been my friend, prayed for me—I have been so blessed.
There is such joy that she has flown away. She has loved Jesus well and so looked forward to seeing Him face to face. And how she has missed Bill Bright. So she was eager to leave the body that had increasingly betrayed her and go to her new home.
And oh the joy of seeing a life lived well, in surrender to Jesus and in dependence on the Spirit and in service to her Father. I know she is being welcomed with those words we all desire to hear: “Well done, good and faithful daughter. Come on in to your reward and our joyful fellowship.”
What about you? What has Vonette given to you? Click here to post on her Tribute page.
c 2015 Judy Douglass